With last week’s long-awaited eruption of Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, many questions immediately arose, including whether it is safe to fly to, from, and within Hawaii at this time.
Jon Snook, Hawaiian COO, said, “When eruptions occur in the islands, they aren’t usually extreme pyroclastic ash events – that’s not the type of volcanoes we have in Hawaii.”
When the event occurred, all airlines flying to Hawaii took immediate notice and were in touch with all meteorological and geological resources. Since the eruption occurred during the night, it took some hours until daylight to determine how severe an ash event was taking place. Ash is highly corrosive to jet engines.
Hawaiian and Southwest went in two directions initially.
Southwest Airlines, acting out of an abundance of caution and with obviously far less experience flying in the islands, decided to cancel all flights to and from Hilo the following day. Smart move. They went back to their regular schedule the day after.
Hawaiian Airlines, on the other hand, took a different approach. “We decided that night to delay some of the morning’s first Hilo flights until we could better understand the air quality. Once the sun rose, reports verified there were no dangerous ash levels in the air, and we knew we could operate as usual.”
An exciting time to visit Hawaii.
It isn’t that often that you can witness a volcanic eruption. Your editors did so once, some years ago, in 2018, during the Kilauea eruption on the Big Island. That was the last significant eruption and destroyed more than 600 homes while producing bright orange lava streaming down the volcano and into the ocean.
Viewing the volcanic eruption.
So it is not only safe to visit Hawaii but also an opportunity to experience something that very few people ever do. There are helicopters available as well for a hefty price. You can also see it from the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Area, at the mid-point of the Saddle Road (Daniel K. Inouye State Highway), 40 minutes from Hilo, and 50 minutes from Kona. Parking and restrooms are available. Remember that no parking is allowed between mile markers 16 and 31. The best viewing is at night (with very early morning most recommended), and flashlights and warm clothing are recommended.
Hawaiian contrasted these two Hawaii volcanic events, saying, “This event is similar to Kīlauea in that it is a relatively calm eruption compared to pyroclastic eruptions like the ones that recently erupted in Iceland and Tonga.”
In Hawaiian culture, lava and volcanoes are treated with great respect, and these events are considered sacred. It is also an extraordinary event in terms of the force of nature.